Accepted paper:

Living with an abnormal drought? An ethnographic and corpus analysis of water consumption practice in the non-stop raining Taiwan


Win-Ping Kuo (Chinese Culture University )

Paper short abstract:

This paper studies water consumption practice of Taiwan during the 2014-2015 drought. Data from an ethnographic observations and interviews and media corpus were collected for analysis. results showed the negotiation and conflicts between official grand narrative and domestic water usage culture.

Paper long abstract:

From the late 2014 to mid-2015, Taiwan, where annual rainfalls are 2.6 times of the globally averaged precipitation, experienced a serious drought in 67 years due to climate change. Based on the context, this paper investigates Taiwanese people's water consumption practice in the dynamic times. The 2014-15 drought provided an opportunity for the researcher to examine various aspects of water consumption - between the boundary of normal and abnormal, human and non-human integrated activities and their negotiations on the grand narrative of water management and domestic water culture. Empirical data were collected via ethnographic methods comprised with observations and in-depth interviews of 19 participants, as well as a corpus analysis of 1207 media reports on drought. The study addresses on the following aspects of water consumption: First, the media and government officials referred the drought to an abnormal crisis by using war and sacrilegious metaphors, while most of practitioners tended to define it as a result of improper water management policies. Second, water-saving techniques, such as low-flush toilets and water-saving washing machine, were encouraged and integrated into daily water conservation practices. However, the participants encountered trade-offs between water-saving and the demand for living standards. Eventually the use of techniques were negotiated with family water culture and sometimes obstructed water saving practices. Third, the official and media narratives of drought-fighting were not effectively incorporated into the participants' domestic water consumption practices. Therefore, respondents interviewed still recognized the drought as a short-term inconvenience instead of a long-term risk of climate change.

panel P021
Dwelling on water: mobilities, immobilities and metaphors